Emerging from stealth, the new AI search engine Upend is powered by 100 large language models.

Wed May 8, 2024 - 8:43am GMT+0000

As the giants of technology like Google and Microsoft continue to enhance their search engines with generative AI, smaller companies are not just watching from the sidelines. They are aggressively entering the space with innovative AI-driven solutions, determined to carve out their share of the market. One such disruptor is Upend, a Canadian startup that has recently made its debut from stealth mode, aiming to revolutionize the way students and professionals search for information.

Upend’s Genesis and Growth
Founded by Jeevan Arora, a student from the University of Toronto, Upend began as a summer project. The initial positive feedback spurred Arora to develop it into a robust platform now available for enterprise teams. This service offers features similar to those of Perplexity, a leader in the AI search domain handling over 169 million monthly queries. However, Upend is making its mark with some unique offerings.

“My goal is to make advanced generative AI models more affordable, thereby democratizing access and ensuring everyone can harness the tools of tomorrow,” Arora stated during the launch. This vision drives the core mission of Upend—making cutting-edge technology accessible and affordable.

Innovative Features Setting Upend Apart
At its core, Upend provides a generative AI search bar, which allows users to choose from an extensive range of large language models (LLMs) and ask questions pertaining to their work or daily life. The platform processes these queries and pulls data from the web or selected sources to provide well-grounded answers, complete with citations for users to verify the information.

Wide Array of Models: Unlike its competitor Perplexity, which offers around five mainstream LLMs, Upend boasts a diverse library of 100 models. This collection includes both major and niche models from developers like OpenAI, Claude, and Mistral, as well as task-specific models from Meta and Deepseek.
Flexible Pricing Structure: Upend introduces a unique pricing strategy based on total team usage rather than per-user fees, making it more economical, especially for larger teams. The standard team plan starts at $20 per month, providing access to all models up to a certain usage limit. Beyond that, charges are based on additional usage. They also offer a discounted student plan at $5 per month.
Enhanced File Support: Upend supports a broader range of office file formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel, facilitating a smoother integration into professional workflows.
Comparing Upend with Industry Leaders
While Perplexity offers AI image search and data retention controls, Upend sets itself apart with its larger selection of models and its focus on affordability. For instance, Perplexity’s Pro plan for consumers is priced at $40 per month or $400 annually per seat. In comparison, ChatGPT’s Team plan is $25 per month per user when billed annually. Upend’s approach could lead to up to a 90% reduction in costs when compared to these models.

Future Prospects and Expansion Plans
Despite its nascence and the need to refine user experience aspects, Upend is poised for significant expansion. Arora envisions transforming Upend into a comprehensive task engine capable of not only providing answers but also executing tasks. For example, a query about converting a PNG image to JPG could soon result in Upend not only delivering the solution but also performing the conversion for the user.

Plans are underway to enrich the platform’s capabilities further, including adding single sign-on (SSO) features for easier team integration and exploring the development of a mobile version and an API. This expansion aims to position Upend as a versatile and indispensable tool in the professional toolkit.

Market Impact and the Shift in Search Dynamics
The rise of platforms like Upend and Perplexity is anticipated to challenge the traditional search engine market significantly. Gartner predicts a 25% drop in traditional search engine volume by 2026, with search marketing losing market share to AI chatbots and other virtual agents. Alan Antin, a Gartner analyst, noted in February, “Generative AI solutions are becoming substitute answer engines, replacing user queries that previously may have been executed in traditional search engines. This will force companies to rethink their marketing channels strategy as generative AI becomes more embedded across all aspects of the enterprise.”

As the AI search market evolves, the competition is not only about offering the most advanced technology but also about making it accessible and practical for a broad audience. Upend’s entry into this competitive arena signifies a shift towards more user- and budget-friendly AI tools, potentially changing how professionals and students seek and utilize information. With its ambitious plans and unique approach, Upend is certainly a startup to watch in the burgeoning field of AI-enhanced search solutions.